HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Sen. Clayton Hee Tuesday accused a Hawaii State Hospital nurse manager of lying under oath during a hearing investigating a whistle blower's claims that she threatened to have him fired after he did an interview with Hawaii News Now about assaults by violent mental patients.
State Hospital Psychiatric Technician Ryan Oyama and several co-workers spoke to Hawaii News Now in on-camera interviews late last October about mismanagement and assaults on staff at the facility.
Tuesday, he told a special State Senate committee that the day after doing the TV interview, when he told his supervisor, nurse manager Candace Sullivan, that he had spoken to Hawaii News Now on camera, she threatened to fabricate charges against him.
"Candy then told me 'You know I could make up some sexual harassment case against you, and I could have you out of here in just one day.' She then went on to say that you would be fired or lose your job," Oyama told senators in a midday hearing.
Under subpoena and under oath, Sullivan denied Oyama's charges.
"Did you threaten to fire Mr. Oyama?" asked State Senate Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee.
"Absolutely not," Sullivan answered.
She said Oyama "misunderstood" their conversation in which she brought up other hospital workers who were under investigation.
"We talked about an ongoing investigation in the hospital regarding a sexual harassment and workplace violence case," Sullivan said.
"He got mixed up, I guess."
Sullivan claimed she has not been accused of wrongdoing by any other employee during her 34 years at the state's only public mental hospital.
"Have there been other employee incident reports written against you?" Hee asked her.
"Not that I'm aware of," Sullivan answered.
But less than one minute later, Hee got Sullivan to admit that another employee -- a nurse -- had recently filed a complaint against her for threatening and intimidation.
"Why would you perjure yourself before this committee?" Hee asked her.
"And I apologize for that," Sullivan told senators. "I guess I don't look at this committee as a real court house. And so therefore I forgot I was under oath and I wasn't even thinking about that particular incident. But it is the first, second time I was written up that I'm aware of. And no, I have not perjured myself in any other way in this forum."
"We asked her straight up and she lied. That's unfortunate," said Hee after the hearing. "What troubled me most was the lack of candor and honesty from Miss Sullivan. I'm just astounded."
Hee said her testimony "casts doubt on the culture of the workplace at Hawaii State Hospital and the attitude of at least one nurse supervisor towards her employee."
Sullivan is in charge of about 50 staffers on the admissions unit, one of the most difficult and dangerous units at the State Hospital. She took several months of stress leave after Oyama filed his complaint about her last fall, and returned to her job earlier this year, sources said.
The Attorney General's office completed an investigation into Oyama's charges this past April, according to Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the state Health Department. She said any discipline or outcomes of the investigation are confidential, because they are personnel matters.
Senators heard recordings of three voicemails Sullivan left for Oyama right after he filed the complaint against her last November, and one voicemail he left for his wife Nadia, who had worked at the State Hospital and also knew Sullivan.
"I just need to talk to you, OK? I can't believe that you would think that I would ever threaten your job, ever threaten anyone's job," Sullivan said in one of the messages she left with Oyama, asking him to call her back to discuss their conversation after he filed the complaint.
Asked by senators if she could see why those phone calls could be seen as intimidating by a supervisor to make to an employee accusing her of wrongdoing, Sullivan admitted "I realize it's not appropriate to call somebody who's written you up."
Leona Guest, the State Hospital's director of nursing, said she counseled Sullivan not to call Oyama after Guest found out she had called him following his complaint against her.
"My response was 'please don't do that again.' it's not appropriate for you to get ahold of him. Please let the process work," Guest said.
The State Hospital has since clarified to all its nurse managers that they should not contract an employee after they have made allegations against them, Guest said. But there is no written policy about that issue, Guest testified.
Another psychiatric technician, Kalford Keanu, said earlier this year he, too was targeted with false charges by Sullivan for complaining about staffing and other problems at the hospital.
Keanu said Sullivan faked charges that he neglected one patient and assaulted another, falsely claiming she witnessed the incident. But surveillance video showed the supervisor wasn't present on the ward to see anything that happened, Keanu said.
Even after he was exonerated by an Attorney General's investigation of the incident, Keanu said, he was disciplined with a written letter of reprimand, transferred off the ward he'd worked on for seven years and sent to anger management training.
"I did my job. But I got reprimanded and I got moved off the unit. So what does that set for all my co-workers?" Keanu said earlier this year.
Since HNN's first story about State Hospital problems on Nov. 11, 2013, senators began their own probe, the state labor department conducted a workplace violence investigation, the hospital conducted a safety review when managers and supervisors met with employees on all the units to discuss safety improvements and just two days before she died, Loretta Fuddy, the then-health director, met with employees to get their feedback on needed improvements.